Review Essay: Some Recent Trends in the Study of Pilgrimage and Tourism


  • Janet Kahl


The relationship between pilgrim and tourist is a complex one. The histories of both phenomena are closely interwoven, and it can be argued that the activities of pilgrimage were over time transformed into tourism. Religious pilgrims travelled for spiritual purposes but often engaged in sightseeing along the way. In the contemporary world, secular travellers similarly and occasionally switch modes to engage in spiritual activities such as meditation retreats and visiting churches and temples. The three books reviewed in this article are focused on pilgrimage. The idea of tourism, however, is always present. Robert A. Scott in Miracle Cures: Saints, Pilgrimage and the Healing Powers of Belief (University of California Press, 2010) concentrates on medieval pilgrimage with a particular interest in illness and cure. Peter Manseau in Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead (Henry Holt and Company, 2009) has produced a popular, very readable essay on relics which covers a variety of shrines and practices, both orthodox and unorthodox, and a wide geographic spread encompassing many religions, viewed at least in part from a sceptical angle. Anna-Karina Hermkens and her co-editors Willy Jansen and Catrien Notermans have produced, in Moved by Mary: The Power of Pilgrims in the Modern World (Ashgate, 2009), a collection of chapters on a range of issues relating to pilgrimage and in particular the cult of the Virgin Mary. Of particular interest for this review article is the somewhat incongruous notion of relics that travel (or travelling relics), rather than relics which remain fixed to a particular site.